Airoforce Attempts Fast Dirt in Risen Star Stakes
Airoforce Attempts Fast Dirt in Risen Star Stakes: Fair Grounds Race Course hosts the first “50-point Derby qualifier” on Saturday, when 3-year-old colts and one gelding take the stage in the $400,000 Risen Star (GII) on Saturday. Most eyes will focus on Airoforce, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI).
Campaigned by the team of trainer Mark Casse and owner John C. Oxley, Airoforce cost quite a bit as a 2-year-old colt last April at the price tag of $350k. What makes his tag somewhat unusual is the sire Colonel John, who some breeders might find unfashionable. The BRIS past performances show Colonel John’s stud fee at $7,500.
The big question of whether Airoforce runs the same on fast dirt remains. His Kentucky Jockey Club win came over a sloppy track, and sometimes turf horses who excel on sloppy dirt find a dry surface less than desirable. Casse recently spoke to Michael Adolphson about this for the Fair Grounds Barn Notes.
“You never can tell if they’ll handle the (fast) dirt with works, but he has a dirt pedigree,” Casse said. “The only reason he originally ran on the turf was because the purse of the Kentucky Downs maiden was $120,000. Once he ran so well and broke his maiden it was hard to take him off the grass. After the Breeders’ Cup we wanted to find out how he would handle dirt and even though it was sloppy, you couldn’t ask him to do much more than he did.”
Convinced? At least the Kentucky Jockey Club turned out to be a semi-strong race, with runner-up Mor Spirit capturing the Los Alamitos Futurity (GI) and Robert B. Lewis (GII) afterwards. Plus third-place finisher Mo Tom, who competes in this race as well, won the Lecomte (GIII) on the same racetrack.
As for Airoforce’s turf races, it is debatable how much analysis they deserve since this race comes on dirt. Of course, running second to Hit a Bomb in the Juvenile Turf is a good effort for turf, and he faced a large field with quality. Before the Breeders’ Cup, Airoforce won the Bourbon (GIII) at Keeneland while overcoming a wide trip.
If anything can be knocked, his assigned tenth post position seems unfavorable in a two-turn route, especially for a midpack runner because of the chance of being carried wide on the first turn. On the positive side, because of the expected scratch of Laoban, Airoforce might move left one slot. The change can help a little bit.
A few questions on Airoforce will give bettors pause, but he projects to make his presence known and bettors must use him somehow. Only a few other horses are likely to challenge for the win, if at all.
For one alternative idea, take a long look at the rail-horse In Equality. He finished third in the Jerome Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct. Those who use TimeformUS will notice they coded the card “red” on Jan. 2, meaning the track heavily favored speed types. In Equality tried to rally from nine lengths behind and could only manage third.
At 30-1, In Equality is worth a shot underneath, if not on top with Airoforce.
Next to him in stall two, Mo Tom looks set to take roughly the same position as In Equality early on. His value is poor at 3-1, considering he lost to Airoforce already with a decent trip and defeated an average field in the Lecomte.
From post position six, Gun Runner tries to keep his “unbeaten on fast dirt” record alive. He lost the Kentucky Jockey Club after making an early move and briefly leading over Mor Spirit. Previously, he won an allowance race at the strong October Keeneland meet and broke his maiden at Churchill Downs. Do not ignore.
The other contenders still need to defeat Airoforce, and if he runs his usual race or better, taking him down will not be an easy task. Airoforce should win and lead Team Casse one step closer to Kentucky Derby 142.
Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes 2016 Post Positions & Odds
Race 11 5:21 PM CT
1 In Equality 30-1 Alvarado/Gyarmati
2 Mo Tom 3-1 Lanerie/Amoss
Dolphus 15-1 Hernandez, Jr. 116 J Sharp
4 Bistraya 15-1 Maldonado 116 R Agarie
5 Forevamo 12-1 Hernandez/Stall, Jr.
6 Gun Runner 6-1 Geroux/Asmussen
7 Its All Relevant 15-1 Bravo/Schettino
8 Tom’s Ready 8-1 Velazquez/Stewart
9 Laoban 30-1 Mena/Guillot
10 Airoforce 5-2 Leparoux/Casse
11 Zapperini 30-1 Torres/Foley
12 Uncle Walter 8-1 Castellano/Maker
13 Candy My Boy 15-1 Bridgmohan/Brueggemann